The public sector, sometimes referred to as the state sector or the government sector, is a part of the state that deals with either the production, ownership, sale, provision, delivery and allocation of goods and services by and for the government or its citizens, whether national, regional or local/municipal.
Examples of public sector activity range from delivering social security, administering urban planning and organizing national defense.
The organization of the public sector (public ownership) can take several forms, including:
- Direct administration funded through taxation; the delivering organization generally has no specific requirement to meet commercial success criteria, and production decisions are determined by government.
Publicly owned corporations (in some contexts, especially manufacturing, "state-owned enterprises"); which differ from direct administration in that they have greater commercial freedoms and are expected to operate according to commercial criteria, and production decisions are not generally taken by government (although goals may be set for them by government).
- Partial outsourcing (of the scale many businesses do, e.g. for IT services), is considered a public sector model.
A borderline form is as follows**
- Complete outsourcing or contracting out, with a privately owned corporation delivering the entire service on behalf of government. This may be considered a mixture of private sector operations with public ownership of assets, although in some forms the private sector's control and/or risk is so great that the service may no longer be considered part of the public sector (Barlow et al., 2010). (See the United Kingdom's Private Finance Initiative.)
In spite of their name, public companies are not part of the public sector; they are a particular kind of private sector company that can offer their shares for sale to the general public, i.e. to anyone willing to buy them (as opposed to a privately owned company, shares of which can be sold to someone only if the owner of the shares agrees to sell them).
The role of public sectors are as follows:
The role and scope of the public sector and state sector are often the biggest distinction regarding the economic positions of socialist, liberal and libertarian political philosophy. In general, socialists favor a large state sector consisting of state projects and enterprises, at least in the commanding heights or fundamental sectors of the economy (although some socialists favor a large cooperative sector instead). Social democrats tend to favor a medium-sized public sector that is limited to the provision of universal programs and public services. Economic libertarians and minarchists favor a larger private sector and small public sector with the state being relegated to protecting property rights, creating and enforcing laws and settling disputes, a "night watchman state".
- Barlow, J. Roehrich, J.K. and Wright, S. (2010).De facto privatisation or a renewed role for the EU? Paying for Europe s healthcare infrastructure in a recession. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. 103:51-55.
- Lloyd G. Nigro, Decision Making in the Public Sector (1984), Marcel Dekker Inc .
- David G. Carnevale, Organizational Development in the Public Sector (2002), Westview Pr.
- Jan-Erik Lane, The Public Sector: Concepts, Models and Approaches (1995), Sage Pubns.
- A Primer on Public-Private Partnerships http://blog-pfm.imf.org/pfmblog/2008/02/a-primer-on-pub.html#more
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